Saturday, February 4, 2012

The visual environment influences
Each child from infancy.
When I arrive on this planet
These are the first things I see:

Marching in Alabama.
A man called Martin Luther.
Four dead at Kent State,
Our soldiers, the shooters.

You can ride the bus.
And yet, we're line walking.
You can surely lose your life
For simple truth talking.

They're shooting down marchers
And civil rights fighters.
Show up to protest and they
Squeeze the blue line tighter.

The poor and hungry call for help
Too weak to dance or sing.
They're nuking in Nevada,
Life don't mean a thing.

There's riots down in Watts.
There's more junk in space.
Yet some still only see the color,
And not the HUMAN RACE.

A Buddhist sets himself aflame
Way over in Vietnam.
But even that's not gonna stop
The planes, the war, the bomb.

They're throwing stones at Martin.
But he won't stop, it seems.
You can kill the man,
But you can't kill the dream.

Arrests go down in Oakland,
And that will happen again,
In the year 2012, when
This world's predicted to end.

History will keep repeating itself,
Of that you can be sure.
Until each and every one of us
Decide to end all war.

I look in the mirror and
I don't know what to do.
First I have to clear my mind
Of everything I ever knew.

Programmed from the day I was born
To hate and have no heart.
Somehow, I still have love,
And yet, we're still apart.

But how can my mind survive
Living in today's world?
Love for hate, joy for sorrow.
Art lets the truth unfurl.

It was never my dream to be
A New World Order slave.
This is no longer the land of the free,
But it's still the home of the brave.

To be a 21st century freedom fighter
Was never a goal of mine.
But I'll forever cast my lot with those
Who cross the propriety line.

Will we ever come together
As one complete humanity
To live as one, to live our lives
As they were intended to be?

The truth will out all the lies
That we've all been told.
Occupy your heart, let freedom ring.
Live strong, live free, live bold.

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In Support of a Free and Uncensored Internet

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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DIY MFA Week 3: Check In & Assignment

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

• Did you meet your writing goals this week? How did it feel? 
Yes. I’m in first pass revisions of my first novel and I’m on Ch. 5. I’d hoped to be further along, but I’m at least making progress. It felt good, and I’m getting more comfortable and less resistant to editing and revising. I’m very uncomfortable when doing something for the first time. The goal for the week is to complete the first pass (which is just for the big stuff like plot holes and character development) and start the second draft, and complete one short story.

• How’s the reading list coming along? 
My list overlapped so much I just condensed it into one for simplicity and to not trigger my ADD. Coming along very well, but finding it hard to get much reading done as working on the novel and short story are at the top of the list right now. I’m making progress but I’m mainly reading books about the writing craft, especially the couple I have on crafting the short story and the ones on editing and revising. I’m reading them more than I am fiction right now.

• Read anything interesting you want to tell us about? “The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle” by Steven Pressfield is really helping me work through my fears around my tendency to censor myself in my writing, and also to work through my resistance to editing. And I’ve started “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. And also “Flowers” by Scott Nicholson, a collection of short stories.

Plus I’m preparing to participate in The Muse Online Writer’s Conference in October, and NaNo in November. NaNo plan this year is to try my best to salvage the second novel that derailed in Nov. 09 since I hadn’t edited the first in the series at that time. I’ll probably do another first draft for it this year. I was unable to participate last year as I moved twice during November.
I was going to say I have a little too much on my writing plate, but that is just resistance! Assignment: 
Where to find characters:
  • Real life.
  • Situations
  • Pictures
  • Quotes

Go out and look for interesting characters so you can start boosting your character stash. Where did you come up with the idea for the main character in your current work-in-progress?

My character Lily came from the idea that what if a person had the ability to raise the dead? How would she do it? What would happen if she did? Would what came out of the grave be the same as what went in, or would that person be different. If so, how? 

I tend to get the situation, and then have a character come to me that will not react well to the situation. I think that helps to build the tension in the story, and also gives me an excellent opportunity to develop the character throughout the story. 

Back to work now. :)

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DIY MFA Week 2: Build Your Reading List

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Here's my list:

Books on the craft of writing:
"Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maas
"The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle" by Steven Pressfield
"Fiction First Aid" by Raymond Obstfeld
"Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein
"The Writing of the Short Story" by Lewis Worthington Smith

Anthology of Short Form in my genre: *some of these are collections, not anthologies
"Flowers" by Scott Nicholson
"Underneath" by Dan DeWitt
"The First" by Scott Nicholson

Competitive Books: *too many in my genre to list, but here are a few
"Anathema" (Cloud Prophet Trilogy) by Meg Jensen
"Beautiful Sins: Leigha Lowery" by Jennifer Hampton
"The Color of Night" by Jack Thomas"

The next two classifications for the list are Informative Books and Contemporary Books. I decided to just list a few more books that interested me. To me the informative would be the books on craft.
"Death Whispers" by Tamara Rose Blodgett
"From Within" by John M. Dow
"The Gateway" by Glenn G. Thater
"The Manicurist" by Phyllis Schieber
"Marysvale" by Jared Southwick
"Play Dead" by Anne Frasier
"The Abandoned" by Amanda Stevens
"These Things Happened" by Scott Nicholson

And we can't forget the classics:
"Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker
"Frankenstein" by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
"Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier

I'm loving this program so far. It's really helped me get in gear and get excited about writing and reading again. And hopefully it will help me decrease the inordinate amount of time I spend online. Too much reading and writing to be done to be surfing. ;)

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DIY MFA: Weekly Writing Prompt for 9/16/11

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I discovered a wonderful website last week. It's DIY MFA. It lets a writer design their own advanced creative writing program. Since I haven't had the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree in creative writing, I jumped at the chance to participate, and use it alongside the Portable MFA in Creative Writing that I had the good luck to download for free from Amazon a few weeks ago.

No, I won't get a degree. Yes, I will get to improve my writing and knowledge of the craft. So, it's a winner with me.

Our first weekend writing prompt is: The Starting Point

1) Do you read regularly? If so, how many books per year, on average?

I usually read at least two books per week, so that would be over 50 books per year.

2) What are your Top 3 preferred subjects or genres?

I mainly read fiction, and my favorite genres are fantasy, horror and paranormal romance. When I do read non-fiction, it's usually something about the craft of writing, meditation, or Buddhism.

3) List the last 5 books/magazines you’ve read.

"The Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac, "Switched" and "My Blood Approves" by Amanda Hocking, "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, and "The Bringer" by Samantha Towle. I am usually reading more than one book at a time. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not.

1) How long have you been writing regularly? I've been writing for as long as I can remember, but I've been writing almost daily since 2008.

2) Do you have a project you’re focusing on? Or are you experimenting with various things?

Yes, I'm working on revisions for my first novel. I also have some short stories in progress, but the novel is the main project right now.

3) How often do you write? Is your writing schedule regular or sporadic?

I journal almost everyday, daily for the past week, but I don't work on my fiction everyday. I'm about to the point that I want to reverse that and make working on my novel the priority, and let journaling take a back seat.

1) Do you belong to a writing group or have writer colleagues who read your work?

I don't belong to a writing group, but I wish I did. I have four people who read and/or offer feedback and critique my work.

2) Do you participate in workshops at conferences or other live or online events?

I have participated in The Muse Online Writers Conference since 2008, and I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2008 and 2009, and I will participate in both events again this year.

3) Do you take time to evaluate the feedback and implement what resonates with you into your work? Yes. I always seek feedback to make my work better.

1) Do you have writer friends?

I have two daughters that blog, but as for fiction writer friends, not really. I wish I did, so I could whine to them about having to scrap the whole first chapter in my novel. They would tell me to shut up, put my big girl writer panties on, and get back to work on my novel by rewriting that first chapter. And we could sit at the same table in the Joe Muggs section of the local Books-A-Million, and write our novels while getting wired on caffeine, and cheer each other on during NaNoWriMo. That would be awesome. Sorry, I desperately crave Fiction Friends. Fantasy over. Moving along...

2) Do you engage with other writers either face-to-face or online?

Mostly online. I did get to meet another local writer, Kelly Kazek, last weekend at Art on the Square in Athens, so that was good.

3) Are you a member of any writing associations? No.

The above questions show where I spend my time in my writing life, and which areas need attention. Currently my time is spent like this:

After seeing this, I'll definitely be making some adjustments. I have a writer friend on Twitter that is willing to critique for me, so we are swapping manuscripts. That means I will be spending more time on writing and critique, and less on community and reading.

I'll still be interacting with other writers, but since I mainly do that on social networks, I will have to cut that down as it is a time suck for me. I created my Facebook Author page this month, so I have spent a good bit of time on Facebook promoting it. The time I spend doing that will be reduced. And since I would like to publish this novel as soon as possible, my time will be spent like this:

This will help me reduce the amount of time on social networks, get my work done on my novel, and get my critiques done. Win all the way around. This chart looks so much more balanced than the first one. I definitely need some balance in my life right now when it comes to my writing.

 And this DIY MFA thing is a win, too. Not only did it give me something to post about, but today I learned how to make a pie chart with Excel. Which will come in handy tracking my book sales in the near future. :)

And now, I'm headed back to work.

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Secrets from 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I've tried to avoid most social networks today, just like I've tried to avoid writing the usual and expected 9/11 tribute post. It's not that I'm not patriotic. I'm just patriotic in a different way than most people.

And I didn't want to see all the references to 9/11. Not only do I have grief on a national level due to what happened ten years ago today, I have grief on a personal level from losing my third husband four years ago today.

I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday, standing by the television in that hospital room, watching all the tributes. We had all been in the whirlwind that happens when you have a family member that is terminally ill. Things sneak up on you. You forget things. Someone said, "Oh, it is September 11th, isn't it?" I looked over at my husband, lying in a hospital bed. Dying. And there was nothing I could do. I've never felt so helpless in my whole life as I did right then and there.

And just at that moment, he looked me in the eyes. And out of the blue, just like a plane hitting a building, I knew. This is the day. He's gonna go today. A sense of dread came over me. My stomach drew up in knots, and my chest felt like an elephant sat on it. And it was exactly the way I felt on this day ten years ago. Deja vu times a gazillion.

Maybe some of that grief on both levels isn't processed completely. But it seemed the more I tried to avoid it today, the more it was in my face. I just wanted to write, and not think about it for the most part. Yeah, write. Stay at home, listen to music, and work on my book. That's all I wanted to do.

So I got my email notification that the #storycraft chat on Twitter was about to begin. Yay! I thought. I can talk about writing, and not think about 9/11 today. Right?

Wrong! Guess what the topic was? How we use deeply emotional experiences for our writing endeavors. Well, that kicked my little avoidance scheme right in the ass.

It was a good chat. And it was exactly what I needed. It made me look at how I use my emotions and my experiences in crafting my novels, short stories and poems. I've used them as fodder for most of my writing for almost all of my life. Especially grief. That's probably because I was a melancholic person for a long time, battling major depressive disorder. I'm not an angry type of person, so I haven't really used anger much, but I have some stories in the works that will.

So the chat's going along fine, and I'm holding up pretty well, until the chat moderator asked me a question that struck home. "What about happiness?" she asked. "Does happiness ever inspire you?" That stopped me cold and I had to really think hard about that before I could reply. I don't really use happiness as an inspiration except for my endings. Most of my stories and novels have a "life isn't going to kick my ass" kind of ending. It's really not the usual "and they lived happily ever after" kind of ending, but they do end kind of on an upbeat. Most of them do, anyway. I've mainly remembered the sad parts of my life, and not the happy parts. Maybe because there's a lot of sadness when you lose three husbands in a nine year period. Yes, three in nine. It's a miracle I'm still alive and have my senses about me. It really is.

Anyway, the reason I've avoided most of the social networks today is because of remembering. Yes, we are remembering the fallen heroes of 9/11 today. But for the most part, the majority of the remembering I've seen has been focused on the tragedy itself. People are remembering the grief, the shock, and then the anger that followed. I didn't want to focus on that. It reminded me way too much of the grief, the shock, and the anger that I felt toward my husband the month before he died.

A lot of people don't know this, but I've got secrets from 9/11. But today, on this day, 9/11/11, I'm going to be completely honest. Because if I'm completely honest, I can move on. Just like this country needs to recover from the grief, the shock, and the anger of 9/11/01, and move on. I've kept this secret for a long, long time. But it needs to come out, just like America's secrets need to come out so that we as a country can deal with it and move on.

Plus, I've got that blog award thingy, so I have to. Not really, but, yeah. I owe my readers that. And the people I know in real life. I like getting the truth, and so do you. So, here it is.

If I told you my husband died from cancer, I lied to you. And I'm sorry. I just didn't want to be judged, or talked about behind my back, or made to feel ashamed, made to feel like I was dirty, made to feel like I was trash, or ridiculed. No one wants that, right? Nope, they don't. I don't either.

My husband died of complications from being HIV positive. He never told me he was positive. I found out when the HIV clinic called to confirm the appointment his nephrologist had made for him. He lived less than four weeks after I got that phone call. We were married less than 7 months when he died.

Four years later, I'm still HIV negative. Thank You God. I got my first negative test result on my 42nd birthday. It was the best birthday present I've ever received. Ever. They don't know why I never contracted HIV. Something to do with your immune system, they said. I laugh when I think of this now, as it is a totally ludicrous explanation since I have Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, both immune system disorders. I know God when I see Him, and I give Him credit where credit is due.

But I want to focus this post not on trauma, grief or tragedy, but on recovery and rebuilding, both in my own life, and in the life of my country. But in the meantime I still have questions. What lessons did 9/11 teach us?

Are we more tolerant of people that are different than us? Or do we make fun of them? Do we persecute and judge them because they don't believe the same things we believe, or because they have contracted a social disease, or because they have a different sexual orientation? The war on terror is a war against an idea, a concept, and can a war like that ever be won? Will it ever end? And will it be the happy-ever-after yes-they're-finally-home kind of ending we want? Or will it drag on and on as long as there remain countries we haven't conquered and oil fields we haven't obtained control over? And for God's sake, why didn't my husband tell me he was HIV positive before he told me he loved me and laid down with me and tried to kill me?

I've learned a lot of lessons from 2001, and 2007. Just because someone is different from me doesn't make me better than that person. Everyone has their own struggles and difficulties, their own private demons they have to deal with. Everyone has psychological, emotional, and physical pain, no matter where they come from. It's part of being human. And even though today writing helps me deal with pain on all levels, that wasn't always the case. I always wanted to run from pain. But I found the more I ran, the more pain I experienced. It was a vicious cycle.

When the towers started falling, people started running. But where have we, as a country, run to since 2001? We've lost a lot of our freedoms in the effort to protect ourselves, and we've run from one war to another. And I ran from one thing to another, from man to man, from drug to drug, trying desperately to stop the pain. America needs to stop running. Only when I stopped running and looked at my pain, and what caused it, and the pain I caused others, did I start to recover. I stopped self-medicating and started practicing a celibate lifestyle. I went to therapy. My therapist was a writer. If it weren't for him, I know you would not be reading these words right now, because I had decided to never write again. I thank God for Giles every day. I'll never forget him.

And I've started to rebuild. I've decided to concentrate on my fiction and not do any freelance writing for now. I've decided to self-publish my novels and short stories instead of doing the traditional publishing dance. I'm just too much of a control freak, I guess. And I don't want my success as a writer in the hands of some people I don't even know in some New York publishing house that doesn't give a shit about me and is only looking at the bottom line. For so many years I thought my destiny was in the hands of fate. It took a lot of years and a lot of pain for me to realize that to a great extent I hold my destiny in my own two hands.

I made a mistake. I put myself in a position that I shouldn't have. I trusted someone when I had no reason to, and they betrayed my trust. And I'll never put myself in that position again. I'm not saying I'll never fall in love again. I'm saying that a test is in order before trust is given. And I want to be there when the test is taken, and when the results are given. It's one lesson I have finally learned. I have to love me more than anyone else loves me, or else I do myself a disservice.

The United States made the same mistake. The countries she laid down with ended up turning on her. And in doing so, she did herself and her citizens a disservice. And it's cost and is still costing us so many lives, both civilian and military, for far too long. The United States of America has to learn to love its own more than it loves money, oil, the bottom line, world domination, and being the policeman of the planet. The bottom line is in the red more than the revisions for my first novel. This country is terminally ill with greed and corruption just like my first draft is sick with adverbs and passive voice. Money and oil don't make up this country. The people do.

America's destiny is also in her own hands, the hands of the people. The two hands of every citizen of this country make up the hands of the United States of America. And it's up to us where she goes and how she gets there.

We don't have to run anymore. We don't have to have secrets anymore. Transparency is a good thing. It is the thing that helps us separate the truth from the lies.

Don't think that I don't appreciate or don't have any gratitude for our military. I appreciate and am very grateful for our military. I just hope their sacrifices for our freedom haven't been in vain. That is my prayer for today, and every day. 

We will never be in that pie-in-the-sky mindset of September 10th ever again. But we can be like we were on September 12th. We can stand, and look at ourselves, and we can make changes and make this country as great as it was once not so long ago. We can be a country where stranger helps stranger, neighbor helps neighbor, and we don't turn our head to look the other way. A country where we aren't afraid of being attacked all the time. A country that will lend a helping hand where it is really needed. Right here at home.

I post this video in honor of my country, and in honor of the citizens of the Unites States of America. I hope she as a nation, and we as a people, can recover, heal, rebuild, and move on.

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